Second Helpings

Rules of the Game: One of the great benefits of this job is all the perks I'm offered: fabulous weekends at first-class resorts, stacks of invitations to dine on the house at the swankiest restaurants, bottles of fine wine in my mailbox.

And one of the great drawbacks of this job is I can't accept them.

Do people in the restaurant industry send gifts my way because I'm a great guy? Hardly -- even my family tells me I'm a man of limited natural charms. It's obvious why I get showered with everything from a 1990 Chateau d'Yquem to my own private casita: People in the business want favorable press, and I'm in a position to provide it.

Of course, if I did take these freebies, my reviews would have zero credibility. So it's, "No, thank you."

For the benefit of this town's restaurant owners, resort operators, public-relations executives and new New Times readers, let me make our policies clear:

• Restaurants don't know who I am, or when I'm coming. I guard my anonymity like a Mafia snitch. I don't go on television, I don't judge celebrity cooking contests, and I don't appear even at otherwise worthwhile charity events.

• There is no such thing as a free lunch, or dinner. New Times pays all the bills.

• I don't meet face-to-face with anybody in the industry, from flacks to chefs.

• I have nothing to do with advertising. New Times ad people find out which restaurants I'm reviewing about the same time readers do.

• Nobody tells me which restaurants to review. I draw up my own schedule.

• Nobody tells me how to review a restaurant. Readers get my judgment, not my boss's.

Restaurant News: More big changes at the Phoenician. The Terrace Dining Room has long been the neglected stepsister among the resort's three restaurants. Fine-dining Mary Elaine's and Southwestern-themed Windows on the Green have achieved national recognition. But the Terrace Dining Room's Italian food has had a hard time getting anyone's attention.

So now, management is ditching the Italian concept, taking a more something-for-everyone approach. This will be the resort alternative for the picky group of four, one who wants ahi tuna, a second who wants pasta, a third who wants salad and a fourth who wants a steak. (The famed Sunday brunch at the Terrace Dining Room will continue unchanged.)

Heading the kitchen will be Ernst Springhorn, the man in charge of Gabriel's during its heyday as Dial Corporation's showcase restaurant. Let's hope he finds a way to put his great proletarian meat loaf on the high-powered menu.

More Restaurant News: Nobody has ever uttered the words "Doubletree La Posada's Garden Terrace Restaurant" and "fine dining" in the same sentence before. The posh resort's executives are hoping that will change.

They've brought in a new chef, Keith Gallimore, and plan to make sweeping changes over the next nine months to the Garden Terrace, including a new name and totally revamped menu. -- Howard Seftel

Suggestions? Write me at orNew Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix, AZ 85002.


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